Thursday, July 17, 2014

Retro Review: Oniisama E (Dear Brother) episode 13

This episode begins by replaying the previous episode's confrontation between Kaoru and Fukiko. Kaoru shouts "Who's there?" and Nanako conspicuously runs away. Fukiko turns to leave, but Kaoru is like "Wait wait, we're not finished here" and Fukiko is like "Mind your own business." The way she says it has some blink-and-you'll miss it implications about Kaoru and Rei's friendship that are extra-interesting in the context of this episode.

Still shocked by what Kaoru said, Nanako makes her way to Rei's apartment, pondering what a sad and mirror-filled life she leads. She finds the picnic basket still outside Rei's apartment with the food untouched. Back home, she tries calling Rei and has an internal monologue about not wanting to intrude too much on Rei's life, just make sure she's alright, which you know means she's going to get very involved in Rei's life.

Tangent: If you haven't watched this show's theme song in a while, you might want to replay it after seeing the objects in Rei's apartment, especially the ones in the doll screencap above. I still think they primarily symbolize this show's coming-of-age theme. Re symbolism in the opening theme, you have a lot of childhood inconography, like the doll (which we now know is the doll Rei has) and the Cinderella imagery (you'll see a miniature version of the coach in Rei's apartment), with even the people in the Cinderella imagery who aren't supposed to be dolls posed in a doll-like way. The imagery of the necklace breaking, beads flying everywhere past the doll and the doll being shrouded in shadows at one point, along with the image of the doll in a puddle in front of what appear to be soldiers evokes the lessening of innocence that comes with growing up. The contrast between the childish-looking doll and the fully grown Cinderella, who look similar to each other, also fits the growing up theme, IMO. In short, Oniisama E's opening animation's theme seems to be letting go of the past. As my girlfriend pointed out, it's interesting to consider in the context of the events of this show (like the Nanako's storyline with Rei, Rei's storyline with her issues, Mariko's storyline with her issues, Takehiko's storyline with his issues, Fukiko's storyline with her... you get the picture) as a whole.

Getting back to the episode, Nanako ponders the why's of what she learned about Rei and Fukiko. We see Rei stopping in front of Fukiko's gated mansion while Fukiko plays piano inside, before walking away while downing more pills. Kaoru pops out of a cab that she must owe a ton of fare, since she's been looking all over for Rei.
In the cab, sadly, Rei still wants to apologize to Fukiko for not waiting longer under the elm tree, and Kaoru gently argues with her about it, but just wants to get her home.
I guess Rei's electricity that was never really gone is still working, because Kaoru turns on the light in her chandelier before tucking her in, and her cordless phone continues to function as Nanako calls. Kaoru answers, and Nanako is hugely relieved that Rei isn't alone. Even though it's late, Nanako decides to sneak out to get some food at a convenience store for Rei. I relate to Nanako being kind of fussy about making sure people eat properly. When she asks Kaoru what Rei likes, Kaoru isn't sure because she's never seen Rei eat anything with an appetite, which to me speaks volumes about how happy she is as someone who ate like a bird as a teenager at some hugely stressful points.

Anyway, Nanako makes it out of the house. Rei wakes up, hearing the piano song that she and Fukiko frequently play. She runs screaming to the shower and turns it on without removing her clothes, making her self-hatred abundantly clear.
Kaoru dries her off, Rei tells her she's cold, and I guess they are comfortable being naked in bed together.
(My girlfriend when I pointed it out: "That's weird. It's weird unless it's gay.") The Kaoru x Rei fodder in this episode is interesting, because I don't remember the manga having any.

Nanako arrives and doesn't seem to think anything of Kaoru still buttoning her shirt when she answers the door. Nanako helps Kaoru get Rei into her old-timey pajamas, and she and Kaoru leave. Kaoru and Nanako watch the sun rise and bond over being in Rei's harem. They both want to be there when Rei is ready to stop trying to deal with the shitty aspects of her life on her own, although Kaoru isn't sure she'll live long enough for it.

Nanako's outfit and body language in this portion of this episode are noticeably butchier than normal, which is interesting. I'm not sure it has any significance beyond whoever is in charge of the characters' gajillion outfits thinking it'd be neat to see her like that, though.
Anywho, Nanako compares her friendship with Tomoko to Kaoru and Rei's, and feels like there's not only more maturity between them, but a sense of destiny.

That day at school, we see Nanako, Tomoko, and Mariko having lunch together, and it feels a little creepy that they're getting along so well.

Fukiko's guilt starts catching up with her as she imagines seeing Rei under the elm tree.  The students make up some spooky rumors about the school (hi, every later girls' school series featuring supernatural school mysteries), including one that hits a little close to home for Nanako,

and Mariko explains that they do that every year before exams.

Then Mariko explains the spookiest rumor from the previous year.

It's basically about a butchy suit-wearing girl and a refined, ladylike girl who were students long ago being seen playing the piano together and going up and down a particular stairwell holding hands. The students the rumors are based on felt the weight of society against their being in love, 
and apparently committed suicide together under the elm tree.

Nanako's commentary on this story is interesting in light of how her romance with Rei turns out. It feels a little meta, and I wonder if that is intentional.

Nanako and Fukiko both hear Rei playing the piano in the clock tower and rush there. Fukiko doesn't see Rei there and thanks she's hallucinating again, but Rei pops up again.

Rei confronts Fukiko about her lying about meeting at the elm tree, and Fukiko falsely comforts her, Nanako watching all this in bewilderment and a little horror.
It isn't a coincidence that Fukiko's face is blacked out as she laughs while leaving. The direction of this scene in general is effectively creepy.

Rei jumps off the balcony, into a tree. She safely lands like a besuited cat and dashes off while Nanako calls to her. Nanako follows her to the clock tower, and finds that she is too hopped up on pills to distinguish her from Fukiko. Rei is like "Remember when we promised to die together?" and Nanako is like "What in the ever-loving fuck" and the episode ends there.

I was mistaken that there are daggers in this episode- they are in the next episode, along with more drama surrounding the layers peeling back from Rei and Fukiko's storyline.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for blogging this show,it's a true masterpiece and it's just sad that not many people
know about it .

I'm planning to re-watch it soon

Katherine Hanson said...

@Anon- I'm glad you like my recaps! ^^ I agree that more folks- especially more yuri/shoujo/drama fans- ought to give this series a watch.